The Curious Adventure of the Scarlet Devil

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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It pretty much starts off as a normal day/night for Remilia Scarlet, the infamous Scarlet Devil of Gensokyo. Bored out of her mind, she asks her loyal maid, Sakuya Izayoi, if ANYTHING interesting has been happening lately. Between the more exciting incidents that quickly get resolve when Reimu Hakurei applies every magical bullet ever in its face, there is just not much to do nowadays. As far as Sakuya is aware, a monster of some sort has been spotted around Misty Lake, prompting either of the two to go investigate and see if there is any truth to this rumor or if the Bunbunmaru Newspaper has been making stuff up again. After finding one of the Three Fairies of Light and a dead end, they return to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, only to find it completely demolished and continuing the long-running fan tradition of blowing up Remilia’s house. Inside, Patchouli Knowledge and Mei Ling informs Remilia/Sakuya about what happened and gives them some clues about the monster that destroyed the mansion. With this, the vampire mistress and the time-stopping maid set out across Gensokyo in order to solve this latest mystery.

A fan made spinoff of the Touhou series, Scarlet Curiosity is an RPG that was originally sold at Comiket 86 in August of 2014. By some miracle, an updated version was localized by XSeed Games and released onto the PS4 in released in September of 2016 for the western audience. Taking control as either Remilia Scarlet or Sakuya Izayoi, the player will travel to several familiar and beautiful locals found within the land of Gensokyo, collecting equipment from chests and enemies, using special attacks to deal more damage, and dodging the colorful hail that is enemy projectiles, staying true to its roots as a bullet hell game. The plot is a relatively simple affair, but fans will still love the various twists and other nuances that make this game a rather charming one.

Touhou is not much on characterization, but the cast is all recognizable and in character, as well as being expanded on. Remilia, as the eldest sister and the head of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, is a dignified and mature girl of 500 years, though since she is essentially ten-years old forever, she still does act like a child sometimes and is prone to boredom if no entertainment is available. Sakuya is the loyal maid of the household and helps balance out Remilia’s bouts of immaturity with her limitless patience and wisdom. The other two members of the household, Mei Ling and Patchouli, do not have as much of a presence, with the former only showing to inform Remilia of the mansion’s state and Patchy serving as the save point. Out in Gensokyo proper, many familiar faces show up as either bosses or NPCs. Players can expect to face off with likes of the immortal and fiery Fujiwara no Mokou, Alice Margatroid the doll maker, and the pint sized powerhouse that is Suika Ibuki, but others will help move along the plot or assist Remilia and Sakuya in other ways, such as Rinnosuke Morichika selling his various wares or Aya Shameimaru providing previous newspaper clips to help figure out the mystery. As for Remilia’s sister, the incredibly popular and stupidly powerful Flandre Scarlet, she also is in the game, but players will need to beat the main story first before descending into the Labyrinth that is beneath the Scarlet Devil Mansion for some reason…

The gameplay is very easy to understand and simple to master. Heavily inspired by the Ys games, players navigate several areas filled with enemies and loot with varying stats. The areas are VERY large and often give branching paths that will either lead to the next area or to a dead end that probably has some good item drops. As Remilia and Sakuya level up, not only do their different stats increase, but equipment will scale to keep up with them and they will learn various special moves in the process. Basic special moves are relegated to two of the buttons, to which any combination of them can be used at any time, but Spell Cards, the signature moves of both characters, can only be equipped once at any time and require a full power gauge to use. These attacks will devastate enemies and bosses alike and can easily turn the tide of a fight.

Being an updated version of the original PC title, the graphics have also been updated and polished, resulting in surprisingly pretty visuals that definitely help bring the majestic nature of Gensokyo to life. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the game is the music, featuring some of the best covers of classic Touhou music yet and even some original compositions. From the the hardcore rocking of Utsuho’s “Solar Sect of Mystic Wisdom ~ Nuclear Fusion” and ominous menace of Flandre’s “U.N. Owen was Her?” to the playful innocence of Wriggle Nightbug’s “Stirring an Autumn Moon ~ Mooned Insect” and the ethereal beauty of “The Gensokyo the Gods Loved”, fans will instantly recognize a lot of the songs present in the game.

Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is not the most complicated of games or the longest of them. The simple controls and easy-to-understand mechanics can be mastered by anyone and finishing the game from the beginning to the normal ending will not take that long, even if you do take some time exploring the different areas to find loot. While fighting the normal enemies does not pose too much of a challenge, the bosses and upper level areas will prove to be tougher adversaries if Remilia and Sakuya are not sufficiently leveled up or have good equipment. Thankfully, the game is not too punishing and will only put the player at the start of the room they entered in if they die. While this is definitely a game meant for Touhou fans, and while anyone could potentially enjoy the game without being familiar with the original games, knowledge of the series does help a lot. Still, the good visuals, simple gameplay, and wonderful music makes this a charming and fun game.